Thu09182014

Schools

International visit highlights LASD's New Teacher Project


Traci Newell/Town Crier
Representatives from the Ministry of Education in Singapore, left, listen as Los Altos School District officials discuss the benefits of their teacher support programs.

Two representatives from the Singapore Ministry of Education visited the Los Altos School District recently to observe the district’s New Teacher Project.

The Singapore Ministry of Education, which is scheduled to adopt the district’s two-year mentor program for new teachers, assigned the representatives to visit local schools and shadow new-teacher mentors to experience the program firsthand.

The New Teacher Project is part of a larger consortium of Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz groups that support and assess the advancement of skills and knowledge in a continuous flow from preservice through the first years of teaching and beyond.

The program model assists participating teachers as they enter the teaching profession through two years of induction. The focus is to improve classroom practice, ensure student academic success and develop reflective teachers who are responsive to the diverse cultural, social, academic and linguistic backgrounds of all students.

“Part of our job is to meet with our new teachers one-on-one once a week, “ said Stephanie Tyson, one of the district’s two new-teacher mentors. “We help formulate lesson plans, analyze work, observe teaching and give feedback.”

Twenty-seven teachers in the Los Altos School District currently take part in the program.

“Teachers, as much as you are part of a school, you really are teaching in isolation,” Tyson said. “Having a mentor come in to support and develop the teacher and not evaluate them is valuable. The mentor is there to make sure that the teachers have everything they need to be successful – and that makes the students successful.”

Teachers in the program said they value the guidance the mentors provide.

“(Tyson) has gone out of her way to let me know where to go for certain things,” said Vicki Lombardi, a Santa Rita School sixth-grade teacher in her second year of teaching. “She has been my liaison for helping me make connections and grow in my teaching.”

Lombardi said that during her first year in the district, Tyson helped her learn the culture of the district and navigate classroom policies and procedures.

“A first-year teacher is expected to be just as good as a veteran teacher,” Tyson said. “A first-year teacher has the same amount of responsibility as a veteran teacher, and that is very daunting.”

Lombardi said she invites Tyson to observe her classroom often.

“She is just a wonderful person who provides honest feedback,” Lombardi said. “It is nice to have a second pair of eyes in the classroom. When she comes in, she is able to give me immediate feedback and we can brainstorm ways to make it better.”

Tyson said her job is to bolster new teachers as they embark on their careers.

“There is just so much to know,” Tyson said. “Not only do they need to learn the content areas and the best ways to teach them, but they also need to recognize individual students’ needs and challenges. And they have to learn to communicate with their parents, peers and principals.”

Another goal of the program is retain teachers who without the additional support might feel overwhelmed or discouraged. Lombardi said she hopes to be teaching for many years to come.

For more information, visit newteachercenter.org/node/1356.

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